Shot bro follows actor Rob Mokaraka, as he journeys around Aotearoa, telling the story of his attempted suicide-by-cop in his one man play. Funny, dark, and real, his mission is to bring light into the dark with aroha.
Along the way we meet communities and whānau from all walks of life who have been affected by suicide. As Rob opens up about his own story, we begin to understand that iIt’s the silence that’s killing us and this kind of darkness can’t survive in light and aroha.
Rob Mokaraka was already a well-known actor before his most public appearance in July 2009 – when he was shot by police outside his Pt Chevalier home. Rob wanted the cops to shoot him that day. In the midst of a mental and spiritual breakdown, he made a 111 call reporting a fabricated intruder, thinking of the Māori men he had seen on the news who had been killed by the police. But Rob miraculously survived his attempted suicide-by-cop and he has the scars to prove it.
During the following years of physical and psychological therapy, with both european and Māori healers, Rob created a brave, brilliant and darkly funny one-man theatre show about his years of inner turmoil and ultimate brush with death. For the past three years he has toured Aotearoa with this play, going where he is invited by communities and whānau affected by suicide. It’s taken him to community halls, remote marae, prisons, schools and beyond and its effect on audiences is profound.
Shot over 18 months, the documentary follows Rob to different shows, from a community performance in his hometown Whangarei to a gathering of Tawhiti Men’s Group in Gisborne to Invercargill Prison and beyond. Wherever he goes, we see how Rob’s own vulnerability resonates with the audience and helps them to open up and tell their own stories of depression and loss. Rob listens carefully then he showers them with aroha and healing.
At home in Whangarei, we meet Rob’s whānau and learn how intergenerational trauma has affected them, especially his father who revisits painful experiences of the Vietnam war. Rob’s sister is visiting for the first time since she saw Rob in hospital 10 years ago and he tells her of disturbing memories he has suppressed for most of his life.
Rob now helps himself and others to heal through reconnection to Te Ao Māori, the natural world and through deep relationships with others. We meet Rob’s cousin Clint, his kaitiaki on this journey, who often accompanies him as he travels to go where his message is most needed. Rob’s commitment to this kaupapa takes him away from his beloved daughters but he keeps in touch by phone while he’s on the road. There’s plenty of humour and heart amongst the sadness.
The final part of the film follows Rob to a beautiful marae in Tokoroa where he performs at the moving whānau memorial for Bobby Farrar, a 20 year old Māori boy who committed suicide in 2018. Bobby’s mum Stephy is now determined to help her community see the signs that she missed and to save other young people who may be at risk. She opens up her world to us, as she tries to piece together the many factors that contributed to Bobby’s death. We see first hand how his death has impacted her and her whānau. As they sit quietly after the performance, Rob recognises the similarities he has with Bobby, “He’s like a younger version of me”.
Our film interweaves this observational journey with compellingly intimate interview footage and elements of Rob’s performance recorded especially to powerfully engage the screen audience. Beautiful and other-worldly underwater footage brings to life Rob’s inner world during the time of his breakdown.
The film explores the ongoing nature of Rob’s journey. There will be another performance, and then another, this is a hero’s quest that has no end. But with each encounter he learns more – about suicide and depression in this country, about people and ultimately about himself.
Shot Bro can be viewed at www.maoritelevision.com/docos/shot-bro
Shot Bro is made with the support of New Zealand on Air.
Based on the play “Shot Bro” By Rob Mokaraka.
Made with the support of Rob Mokaraka and his whānau and Stephy August and her whānau.
A film by Jess Feast
Producer – Ruth Korver
DOP – Mike Jonathan and Brandon Te Moananui
Editor – Trinity Ludlow-Hudson
Executive Producers – Fiona Apanui-Kupenga and Rob Appierdo
Underwater Camera – Simon Baumfield
Lighting – Underwater shoot – Mark Papalii
Lighting Assistant – Jack Bloomfield
Additional Camera – Rachel Millar, Pila Lolohea, Rick Zwaan, Rob Appierdo, Tammy Williams
Sound recording – interview – Joel Anscombe-Smith
Production Coordinator – Anita Ross
Production Assistants – Tori Lolohea and Matilda Boese-Wong
Te Reo Advisor – Arihia McClutchie
Consultants – Mental Health Foundation and Changing Minds
Archive courtesy of NZ Police and Newshub
Karakia – Arā Noa Te Pō – Composed by Kāterina Te Hei Kōkō Mataira. Many thanks to the Mataira whānau.
Colour Grade – Park Road Post, Erin Woolhouse
Sound Editors – Callum Scott and Yong-Le Chong
Re-Recording Mixer – John McKay
Sound Post Facility – POW Studios
Online – Trinity Ludlow-Hudson
Network Executives – Lanita Ririnui, Kath Graham, Amber Easby, Leonie Hayden and Toby Manhire
Many thanks to all the people who allowed us to records their stories and supported this production.